TOPICS > Politics

The Senate Reaction

January 22, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


SPOKESMAN: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye.

KWAME HOLMAN: Even as senators posed questions and listened to responses, there was growing talk among them about ending the trial. In mid-afternoon, one of the senate’s most respected and longest-serving members, former Democratic Majority Leader Robert Byrd, released a statement saying he will introduce a motion to dismiss the charges.

Byrd wrote: “I am convinced that the necessary two-thirds for conviction are not there and that they are not likely to develop. I have also become convinced that lengthening this trial will only prolong and deepen the divisive, bitter, and polarizing effect that this sorry affair has visited upon our nation. I see a motion to dismiss as the best way to promptly end this sad and sorry time for our country.”

A few minutes later, Republican Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, agreed with Byrd that two-thirds of the 100 senators would not vote to convict.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) Utah: If we absolutely come to the conclusion that there are really no — that there are not 67 votes for a conviction and that there never will be, then it seems to me we ought to find some way of bringing this to a close.

I’d prefer an adjournment motion with an acknowledgment as part of it, with an acknowledgment that the House of Representatives’ vote on impeachment is acknowledged, that we acknowledge that, if it’s true, that we don’t have 67 votes for a conviction and that we acknowledge that the House vote on impeachment is the highest form of censure possible under our system, that would avoid an obscene later move to try and have a censure petition so people can could ever their behinds.

It would allow everybody to walk out of here arm in arm as having done their best, having followed it through as far as they could, it will be more bipartisan, and it won’t establish that what I consider to be a bad precedent of censuring a president.

KWAME HOLMAN: During a trial break a short time later, Republican Phil Gramm predicted a motion to dismiss the case would fail.

SEN. PHIL GRAMM, (R) Texas: So I believe that Senator Byrd’s motion to end the trial is inappropriate. I believe it will be defeated. I believe this trial will go the distance. This is burdensome, this is hard work. Having 100 senators sit there hour after hour is burdensome. But this is a constitutional process.

A hundred years from today, people are going to look at what we did, and it’s going to be the precedent that will be used in other cases when we may have other national situations similar to this or perhaps more threatening than this.

KWAME HOLMAN: Democrats then came forward to endorse the motion to dismiss.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, (D) Connecticut: Democrats and Republicans look to Robert C. Byrd as a barometer, as a guiding light in constitutional issues. And certainly his decision to support a motion to dismiss I think is grounded in the basic notion of fairness and justice.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY, (D) Massachusetts: I think, as one of the real strong defenders of the Constitution, one who has approached this with an open mind, I think he understands that we are in the danger of demeaning the United States Senate by a continuation of this process. We have the record, it is established, and we ought to move towards a judgment.

KWAME HOLMAN: For their part, House managers continued to push for witnesses today. Early in the day, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde issued a response to Sen. Byrd’s call for a dismissal vote. Hyde wrote: “We always knew that there would be a motion to dismiss in this process; now we know who will offer that motion. We hope and expect that the Senate will reject this motion and continue an expeditious search for the facts. History and justice demand a full record of the truth.”

Hyde addressed the issue of dismissing the case in response to a question this afternoon.

REP. HENRY HYDE, Chief Impeachment Manager: I think by dismissing the articles of impeachment before you have a complete trial you are sending a terrible message to the people of the country. You’re saying, I guess, perjury is okay if it’s about sex; obstruction is okay, even though it is an effort to deny a citizen her right to a fair trial.

You’re going to say that, even when judges have been impeached for perjury– and by the way, the differing standards between judges and the president, this country can survive with a few bad judges, a few corrupt judges we can make it, but a corrupt president?

Survival is a little tougher there. So there is a difference, and the standard ought to be better, more sensitive for the president because the president is such an important person.

Look, the consequences of cavalier treatment of our articles of impeachment, your articles of impeachment, you throw out the window the fact that the president’s lies and stonewalling have cost millions of dollars that could have been on obviated, the damage to sexual harassment laws, you think they’re not going to be damaged; they are – seriously — making it more difficult to prosecute people in the military or elsewhere for perjury who lie under oath.

Those are serious consequences. I know, oh, do I know what an announce we are in the bosom of this great body, but we’re a constitutional annoyance, and I remind you of that fact. Thank you.

KWAME HOLMAN: The motion to dismiss the impeachment case could be made as early as Monday.